Images of 2020

Picking a selection of my favourite railway images from the past year has proved a good deal harder than usual, with many months written off due to lockdown, leading to the cancellation of many planned outings.

Fortunately I began the year early with visits to see the final days of semaphore signalling on the Wherry Lines in January and managed to fit in a number of other interesting visits during the course of this challenging year.

What follows are 20 photos from 2020, featuring places across Britain that I was lucky enough to visit during the course of the year, from Carnoustie, Kingussie and Dunkeld in Scotland, to the Cumbrian Coast, Teesside, and Earles Sidings in the north, to Liskeard in Cornwall and Park Junction in South Wales.

Back in January I made two final returns to the Wherry Lines to get some views of the newly-introduced Class 755 units passing the doomed semaphores. 

The top photo shows 755333 passing Brundall Junction’s up distant BL32 on 16 January with the 12.57 Lowestoft-Norwich, while the photo above shows 755327 passing the Lingwood down distant L3 on 31 January, the final day of semaphore signalling on the route to Great Yarmouth. 

Another January day-out took me to the South Coast in search of Britain’s oldest mainline EMU to remain in service. My luck was in, and this shot on 4 January shows celebrity 313201 approaching Ford with a service for Littlehampton.

In a year which marked 50 years since Lincolnshire was ravaged by Beeching-inspired line closures I paid a return visit to “bracing” Skegness, where its listed signal box and fine collection of semaphores can be seen in this 22 January view, showing 156411 arriving with the 12.45 from Nottingham.   

An early February visit to Scotland gave me the chance to capture some fairly rare freight action, with the photo above showing Colas Rail 70802 approaching Carnoustie on 5 February with a working from Oxwellmains to Aberdeen, while in the shot below DRS 66303 approaches Kingussie on 7 February with the 13.07 Inverness-Mossend intermodal service.

Shortly before the start of Lockdown One my hopes of seeing Wales take on Scotland at the Millennium Stadium were dashed, so on a substitute day trip to South Wales I was able to see ex-Abellio 170201 approaching Park Junction on 14 March with the 12.37 Ebbw Vale-Cardiff Central.

One final outing in the week before Lockdown One took me to Manea on 18 March, where the pick of my photos that day was the remarkably well choreographed passing of EMR 158783 on the 10.57 Norwich-Liverpool and 158813 on the 07.42 Liverpool Lime Street-Norwich.

Summing up the weeks that followed is this poster, which I noted while working at a deserted Reigate station on 14 June. Enough said.

With travel restrictions eased as COVID-19 case numbers fell significantly during the summer I took the chance for a final trip to the Isle of Wight to see the 80-year old Class 483s in action. In this view from 5 August 483006 approaches Brading with a Shanklin service.       

We have all become familiar with pictures of deserted stations during the past year, so the lack of passengers on the platform at Darlington should come as no surprise in this 25 August view of a LNER Azuma about to depart for Edinburgh.

Shortly before it was put off-limits by COVID-19’s autumn resurgence I paid a visit to Teesside to photograph the fine collection of semaphore signalling around Norton-on-Tees that will make its delayed disappearance early in 2021.

In the view above, Grand Central 180105 can be seen approaching Norton-on-Tees on 26 August with the 08.44 Sunderland-Kings Cross, while below 156443 approaches Norton East on the same day with the 09.40 Newcastle-Nunthorpe.

Yeovil Pen Mill has long been a favourite photo-spot of mine and diversionary action there gave me an excuse to return on 28 September, where two GWR IETs, 800312 (left) and 802101 pass with London Paddington-Plymouth services.

A glorious day-out to the Peak District on 22 October was a chance to pay a first time visit to Earles Sidings for some heritage diesel action in the form of 20906, in its guise as Hope Cement No. 3, taking a train of empty wagons down the short branch to the country’s largest cement works.

Heading in the opposite direction a few days later I spent another great day photographing trains at Liskeard, where a long walk in heavy rain got me to a fine vantage point in time for a brief sunny interlude and chance to photograph GWR 150265 passing down outer home signal LD35 on 26 October with the 11.26 Exeter St. David’s-Penzance.

Another trip north of the border in early November and a solitary morning at delightful Dunkeld, which LNER Azuma 800111 can be seen approaching on 3 November with the up Highland Chieftain.

On my return south from Scotland a short detour at Carlisle took me to Wetheral on the Tyne Valley Line, and the chance to photograph DRS 66421/126 on the seasonal twice-weekly RHTT working from Nunthorpe to Carlisle, as seen below approaching Sandy Lane Level Crossing.

One final outing in that all-too-brief period between the end of Lockdown Two and the imposition of Tier four restrictions on most of us gave me a chance for a three-day visit to the Cumbrian Coast.

Having begun this look at 2020 with distant signals in East Anglia, my final two images of 2020 feature working distant signals on the Cumbrian Coast. 

Pictured above are DRS 68002/033 top-and-tailing a train of nuclear flasks from Sellafield to Heysham and approaching the Millom up distant signal on 7 December while below we see 156428 approaching Limestone Hall Level Crossing on 9 December with the 10.22 Barrow-Carlisle. 

As this is my final post of 2020 I would like to wish all readers a happy and safe New Year! Watch out for a feature on the Isle of Wight’s Class 483s early in 2021.